In talking with other caregivers, I realize all the more keenly how incredibly blessed I was to have an amazing support system. In a recent post, I (re)shared with my readers how my loving church family came alongside me to help me in caring for my sweet mom. Today I am (re)sharing another note that I wrote and published on Facebook in 2017–which was the year mom’s Alzheimer’s disease dramatically advanced.Continue reading “Rewind: The Family that Cares”
Dino Dig Birthday Cake
There is probably no boy on earth who enjoys the pleasures of a birthday celebration more than Henry. He loves birthdays almost as much as he loves squirrels!(And that’s sayin’ a LOT!)
Henry’s birthday always begins in his uber-creative mind a few months before the actual date arrives the week of Thanksgiving. Somewhere around the beginning of the school year, Henry told me he knew what he wanted his birthday cake theme to be this year. The conversation happened after church one Sunday at Culver’s where we usually take my daughter and her family for lunch. As we waited for our meal to arrive at our table, Henry sidled up to me for a chat. As he described the cake he envisioned, he enthusiastically gushed words like ‘Velociraptor’ and something about ‘Indominus Rex’ and other Jurassic World dinosaur-ish lingo. Henry had obviously set his heart on a cake that looked like a “paleontological dig site”—he wanted me to make the cake and said he would help decorate it.
So began my Pinterest search for ideas and inspiration. There was no shortage of ideas. I knew right away that I wanted to figure out a way to make dinosaur bones for the dig site. This educational site offered some freebie coloring sheets, so I chose two dinosaur skeletons from their site and resized them to fit on his cake. I laid a sheet of wax paper over the printed dinosaurs, then melted some cake decorating white chocolate candy melts, put the melted white chocolate in a Ziplock® baggie, then cut a hole in the tip of the bag to create a frosting bag and traced the outline of the dinosaurs to create the bones for the dig site. I also had enough white chocolate left to write out Henry’s name and the number 12. I let the designs set for a day to harden up nicely before peeling them off the wax paper and gently placing them on the cake. (I actually made two sets…just in case there was breakage.)
Meanwhile, I baked the Schultz family’s favorite chocolate cake recipe in a 9″x13″ baking pan. I also made a half-batch of another chocolate cake recipe in an 8″x8″ baking pan for a second half-layer. The first cake is super-dark and very moist; the second layer is less chocolate-y, and a little more dense and less fragile. I frosted the entire cake with my daughter’s favorite recipe for cream cheese chocolate frosting. I kept my frosting job a little rough and dirty looking – after all, it is a dig-site.
Cream Cheese Chocolate Frosting Recipe
1 stick butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. cocoa powder
4 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. milk (I used a little more)
I found some chocolate-filled cookie wafer tubes at our local Dollar Store, cut the tubes to various lengths, then added them to the edges of the second layer to resemble a retaining wall. The cookie crumbs were saved to be scattered here and there like clumps of dirt.
On Saturday morning, Henry arrived excitedly carrying a little treasure box of Lego Minifigs and other cake-topper elements for his dig site. Henry and his big brother Charlie worked together at putting frosting grass on the top layer of the dig site.
I dug through my box of ribbons and found an orange one to use as a rope to cordon off the dig site. The fence posts would be the 12 birthday candles. Charlie helped construct and place the fence around the dig site. Henry finished the decorating by placing his Lego creations wherever he felt it was best.
The birthday boy was happy. Very happy. Over-joyed, really.
We had to light those candles and blow them out, of course!
I fully realize that Henry is on the threshold of becoming a teenager and there will come a year when he will no longer request a decorated cake from his Grandma Cindie. That year isn’t this year, so I will bask in the joy and blessing of this happy birthday boy and his cake.
A few more pics of the fun details Henry added to his paleontological dig site birthday cake:
Watering Can Memories
For several years now, this little watering can has held various succulents from my garden. I bought this little watering can around 17 years ago for my first grandbaby. My mind’s eye sees Violet, dressed in her pink ballerina tutu, carrying this pint-sized watering can around and joyfully watering my flowers…and rocks…and me.
One by one, each granddaughter took her turn as a toddler helping me water the garden using this watering can. Mia, then Noelle, each dressed in various Disney princess dresses, liked to use their budding culinary skills while they watered. They’d take the bucket of water I provided for watering can refills and add handfuls of their special ingredients: leaves, twigs, grass, and dirt, of course. Together they would create imaginary “salads” and “soups” for grandma and grandpa to enjoy. Then along came the stairstep grandsons, Charlie, Henry and George, who gravitated toward using squirt-guns over watering cans to get the job of watering plants (and each other) done.
Though the sun has faded the paint and the grandkids have all outgrown using it, I can’t part with the memories.
A Drive with Just Charlie
Growing up living in Wisconsin, many of my summer vacation memories revolved around trips to West Virginia and Ohio to visit with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and a bevy of cousins. I loved listening to my cousins (who spoke with a bit of a Southern drawl compared to my distinctly Midwestern dialect). I loved to hear their back and forth banter and all the family stories that unfolded. As much as I loved it, I recognized that my cousins had something I didn’t really have: first-hand stories to tell of times they had spent together with our grandparents.
Now that I have six kiddos who call me Grandma, I’m happy they live close enough for them to each have at least a story or two to tell about time they’ve spent together with me. My grandson Charlie has a few fresh stories to add to his collection because he took a little road-trip with me last summer. But, let me tell you a story about him first. I told this one on Facebook about eight years ago:
Conversation with my 4-year-old grandson, Charlie:
Charlie: Grandma, you smell.
Me: Ummm…do I smell bad, or smell good?
Charlie: You smell like my grandma!
Seeing that one come up as a Facebook memory made me wax all nostalgic and drove me to look through some of my older Facebook photos. Such joy this kiddo has brought to his grandma’s heart.
Charlie is now 13 and more of a young man than a boy. After last summer’s trip to Ohio, he now knows that his grandma sometimes snores and that she has a way of making the on-board navigation system say, “Make a legal U-turn at the next intersection” quite a lot.
With a short window of time for our trip, it was a lot of driving, snacking in the car on the way here or there, staying overnight in hotels without the greatest breakfasts (due to a world still reeling from Covid), listening to audiobooks, trying to figure out how to get motel televisions to play the shows WE wanted to watch, and such. Once we made it to Wintersville, Ohio it was a lot of meeting relatives he didn’t know he had (and that I haven’t seen in years), eating, driving, eating, and hanging out with (mostly) older folks who spoke with an unfamiliar twang.
The purpose of my last minute trip to Ohio was to attend the memorial service for a beloved uncle who went Home to heaven back in 2020. With Covid restrictions for large gatherings lifting, we could finally gather as a family to both mourn our loss and celebrate his homegoing. There is just something special about knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that you will see your loved one again in heaven. ‘Til we meet on heaven’s shore, Uncle Bobby.
Our trip to Ohio was over a long holiday weekend sandwiched between days I had to work. So, other than hotel pools along the way there and back, this wasn’t a trip filled with fun stops and great amusement. But it was certainly filled with family – it was so good to be together.
My family loved Charlie, as I knew they would — he’s an easy kid to love. And I love that Charlie had the privilege of meeting both my Aunt Linda and my Uncle Jim, my dad’s youngest sister and oldest brother. I am grateful that Charlie had the opportunity to hear what a godly influence and man of Christian character his great-great Uncle Bobby was as his children and grandchildren shared their stories about his life and legacy. Charlie got amply loved on by my cousins and second-cousins and even got to taste my Aunt Linda’s cooking.
One of my favorite candid photos from this trip is of my Uncle Jim chatting with Charlie (below). This warmed my heart more than you can possibly imagine. Uncle Jim reminds me so much of my dad–right down to the well appointed pocket protector. I loved hearing Uncle Jim tell Charlie some of the same stories of yesteryear that I had heard, and I my heart warmed as I watched him share a life lesson or two with Charlie and anyone else willing to listen.
My heart is a little sad today knowing my Uncle Jim joined the heavenly throng this morning and that I will not get to see him again on this side of Glory. Though my heart is heavy knowing the sorrow that his children and grandchildren are feeling right now, the sting of death is mingled with the confident joy of knowing my Uncle Jim is with his Lord and Savior. If there is a receiving line in heaven, I’m sure my Aunt Robbie was at the front of the line to see her beloved Jimmy again. Uncle Jim just celebrated his 97th birthday here on earth, so I’m sure there were a lot of loved ones who got there before him and were lined up to greet him, but I can well imagine that my dad was elbowing his way to the front of the line to be among the first to greet his brother when he showed up this morning. Jim was not only my dad’s older brother, but he was also someone who faithfully prayed that his little brother Jerry would come to know the Lord. I will forever be grateful for Uncle Jim’s faithful witness and God’s answer to his prayers.
Join me for a photo-inspired trip down memory lane.
A whole flood of memories washed over me when I paused to look at this scanned photo today. While so many of my generation “cropped” their photos to put them into elaborate scrapbooks, I’m glad I wasn’t artsy-crafty enough to enjoy that sort of activity and this photo survived totally intact. I’m reminded of so many special things from this era of my life as I look at all of the elements in this slightly fuzzy old photo. Join me as I play a little game of ‘I Spy With My Little Eye’ with this photo.
My ‘I Spy’ Memories
- This photo was taken in our very first home on 49th Street in Milwaukee.
- It was a tiny 2-bedroom, 1-bath bungalow-style house boasting about 600 square feet of living space. I’ve seen a more recent Zillow listing for this house stating it has 1,487 square feet. Unless they put on an addition, they must have counted the basement and the tiny rear entryway.
- Wayne still had a Garfunkel-ish mop of curly hair. He would tell you that the hair on top of his head has migrated to his chin over the years.
- I remember how much our kids loved it when their daddy would read a book to them because he made all the necessary silly voices for each character.
- That classic sofa was a hand-me-down from my best friend’s mom. Betty Banner’s gift of her used sofa was a fancy-schmancy step up for us in the world of living room furniture, replacing a freebie imitation leather futon which threatened to slide you off onto the floor whenever you tried to sit on it.
- The sewing machine was a birthday gift from my husband two months after we were married. [Note: I tell the story about this sewing machine here.]
- I used that sewing machine to make the heart-shaped pillows on my sofa (definitely an 80’s thing), farm-themed curtains for the kids’ bedroom, and clothing for myself. You wouldn’t know it by looking at this photo, but I also made shirts for Wayne and Matt…and cute little dresses for Beth, who apparently wasn’t into wearing clothes on this particular day.
- Money was tight, but Wayne and I splurged and bought the maple writing desk so I would have someplace other than the kitchen table where I could set up my sewing machine. I think that desk has since taken on a new life in our daughter’s house.
- That coffee table is actually a toy box we bought at an unfinished furniture store. Wayne and I finished it together and now, more than 40 years later, it sits in front of a sunny window in our home with lots of houseplants on top. Sadly, I have only a vague recollection of what is in it.
- That purse on the coffee table was a favorite. It rarely had money in it, but my greatest earthly treasures were sitting right there on that sofa.
- The afghan on the sofa back was crocheted for me by my Grandma Peet. I remember her asking me what the colors were in my new home. I told her “earthtones,” because that was the trendy thing in the 70’s.
- The ball-fringe curtains on the windows were purchased by my grandma too. I remember feeling like a wealthy woman because I had curtains from Country Curtains on my windows.
- Wayne and I painted that table lamp together. It was one of two plaster casting-type lamps that we painted for our abode. The lamp tables were Wayne’s stereo speakers. I remember we spent more for the lampshades than we did for the lamps.
- That avocado green carpeting was straight out of the 60’s and it butted up to the burnt orange vinyl tile flooring in the itty-bitty kitchen. Yeh, we were that cool.
- That rocking chair was gifted to me by my husband after the birth of Matt. There was a heat vent on the floor right in front of that rocker. I would put my feet on that vent and the warm air would whoosh under my bathrobe as I rocked my fussy baby to sleep on cold nights. Memories of rocking both of my babies in that chair have kept me from parting with it as I now seek to “downsize”.
Thanks for joining me for my little reminisce down Memory Lane. I’m thankful for this nostalgic moment captured on film 40+ years ago.
Aloha from the Garden Island
“He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— he remains faithful forever.” Psalm 146:6
I’m taking a tiny blogging break so I can fully appreciate time spent with my husband Wayne and our beautiful grandgirl, Violet.
There’s no way to capture the splendor of this place in a photo, but here’s a glimpse of my happy moments on my favorite island thus far—Kauai.
Okay friends, you are going to need to cut me some slack on this mothering moment that I’m going to share. I had only been 20 years old for about 14 days when my first baby arrived in the world and probably not even 22 when this story took place.
I was pregnant with baby #2 and exhausted. Usually a good sleeper, lately Matt seemed to sense the moment my weary head hit my pillow. Well, on the night this story took place, I was settling in for sleep for what seemed to be the umpteenth time when my not quite two-year-old little Matt cried out for me from his crib with his loud toddler voice,
I shudder to think of what I did now because it is so contrary to good sense, but I was a gullible young mom who apparently believed this ad.
On that night I grew tired of getting my very pregnant self in and out of our waterbed (anyone remember those?). I desperately wanted to get my little guy to lie back down and go to sleep, so I gave him a bottle hoping he would fall asleep and let me get some sleep. I wanted to save the little bit of milk we had in the fridge for breakfast in the morning, so watered down some Tang breakfast drink and put it in his bottle.
Not two minutes had passed after I dragged my weary self back to bed when I heard the familiar squeak of Matt’s crib. We had a tiny house and I didn’t want him waking his sleeping daddy who had to get up early to go to work, so I got up and went to his room. He was standing in his crib again, arm extended out to me with an empty baby bottle in hand.
“More, Mommy, more.”
I couldn’t believe he had drained that bottle so quickly. I made him another bottle of the stuff then checked to make sure his diaper was dry. He took the bottle and snuggled in for what I had hoped would be the last time until morning’s light. Bleery-eyed with weariness, I then crawled back in my own bed hoping not to make too many waves.
Unbelievably, before I could pull the covers up under my chin, Matt was again yelling,
“More, Mommy, more!”
I made the trek of five or six steps to his room again and turned on the little Humpty-Dumpty lamp on the dresser. I couldn’t believe my eyes – his bottle was empty again! Checked his diaper again too – it just had to be wet, but it wasn’t.
Bordering on sheer exhaustion (and also a wee bit suspicious), against my better judgement, I fixed him another bottle. I turned off the light and then headed out of his door, this time waiting around the corner to spy on him and see what on earth was going on. Sure enough, I had every reason to be suspicious. My clever and mischievous little guy sat up in his crib, unscrewed the top of the bottle, then stood up and proceeded to pour that orange drink down the wall, then picked up the nipple end of the bottle and screwed it back onto the empty bottle.
I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. I did know that if he could figure out how to do all of that, he was much too old to still be drinking from a bottle. I took the bottle out of his hand before he could say, “More, Mommy, more” and told him to say “bye-bye” to his bottle.
Matt never saw the bottle again.
Interesting note: Now, 40-some years later, Matt is an elder and discipleship pastor at Wildwood Church in East Moline, Illinois. On a recent Sunday, Wayne and I were able to worship with Matt’s faith family at Wildwood and were blessed to listen as our son preached from Luke 22 using this story from his childhood as a sermon illustration. I’m not proud of this mothering moment of mine, but it did make a pretty nice sermon illustration. It warmed this momma’s heart (and his dad’s too) hearing Matt sharing God’s Word as he preached. I invite you, dear readers, to give that sermon a listen right here.
Happy Birthday to George!
Not too many Saturdays ago, we were blessed to gather and celebrate this boy’s 9th trip around the sun. George is our youngest grandchild and I’m still trying to take in the fact that he’s nine.
The birthday boy sat at one end of the table with Wayne and I seated to either side. As he chatted with us over our lunch of his mom’s homemade chicken pot pie, we both looked at one another in astonishment as to how much this boy knew and how well he communicated. When did the little boy disappear, and how did this more mature and articulate boy sneak up on us?
Most years the grandkids in my daughter’s family ask me to bake their birthday cake. This year George wanted cupcakes. More specifically, he wanted Pokémon cupcakes. I don’t know much about this gaming trend, so Beth sent me some Pinterest photos of what he had in mind. I had fun with it and came up with these.
I always look forward to seeing each grandchild’s reaction when they first see their birthday cake. Our all-smiles birthday boy wrapped me in an excited hug and told me his birthday cupcakes were perfect. (Grandma was all smiles too.)
I know that there may come a day when my grandkids no longer ask me to bake them a cake. Perhaps there may even come a day when this grandma can no longer bake them a cake. For now, we will just keep on celebrating each birthday milestone God grants us, and I’ll keep on doing my best to make their birthday cake wishes come true.
Duct Tape Can’t Fix It
It was 13 years ago today that my dad was called Home to heaven. May I share his story of how God drew him to Himself?
My dad was a mechanical engineer by training, so could figure out how to fix most anything long before the advent of YouTube tutorials. If he didn’t have the right part, he’d get creative and make something else work. Our family jokes that he could fix just about anything with duct tape.
My dad learned later in life that there was one thing he definitely couldn’t fix by his own ingenuity. His own sinful heart. I was about 12 years old when my dad realized he needed to trust Jesus for salvation from sin. I was old enough to notice his dramatic spiritual transformation — a change that carried over into every aspect of his life.
Mom once shared with me that Dad would spend every lunch break at work reading the Bible he kept in his car. He read through it so many times that it fell apart. Dad repaired it with his favorite tool: duct tape. I displayed that Bible at my dad’s memorial service in 2008, but it disappeared sometime during mom’s battle with Alzheimer’s a few years later. I did find another Bible, similarly repaired (pictured).
Not long ago I sat down with my Dad’s well-worn Bible in my lap and began to page through it, stopping to read his notes in the margin. It was clear to me that he spent much time exploring this copy of God’s Word too. The Bible had a few special things tucked in the flyleaf, including two cards I had sent him — it meant a lot to me knowing that he had treasured those cards enough to save them.
My heart got all tangled up with emotion when my eyes spied two sheets of lined paper in my dad’s familiar handwriting. These were the notes from which my Dad shared this testimony of faith with the congregation at Garfield Baptist Church on March 31, 1971.
Today, dear readers, on the 13th anniversary of his homegoing to heaven, I would like to share dad’s testimony with you, just as he wrote it, with a prayerful hope that God will use it for His Glory .
March 31, 1971 My Testimony Jerry Boyles - A Son of God Matthew 10:32 - "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before man, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven." It is a shock to learn at the genetic age of 39 to find that you are a spiritual babe. I have been a church member since the age of 11-12 but do not recall being asked personally, 'Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?" I could not give an affirmative answer the first time this question was posed on a Monday night visitation by Gene Klingbeil and Ed Newton, but it did start the wheels turning. I admitted to being a sinner and I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior on Monday evening November 9, 1970 with the assistance of Rev. (Edward) Fuller, Mr. (Everett) Huebner, and my family. I was baptized by immersion by Rev. Fuller on Dec. 27, 1970. I base my salvation on John 1:11-13 "He came unto his own and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." My assurance of salvation is: John 10:28 "And I give unto them eternal life: and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."
At this point in Dad’s testimony, he made a note to himself to “Give thanks to AWANA and Sunday School.” Those two ministries of Garfield Baptist Church were very instrumental in my coming to Christ and growing in my faith too. I love knowing that when God drew me to Christ, my family would soon come to know Him too. Dad concluded his testimony in this way:
Being a spiritual babe I have a lot of "catching up" to do. I'm going to need all the help I can get from God and this congregation. I feel that I've had much help from both. I hope, if accepted as a member, that I can be an asset to this church. In Jesus Name, Jerry R. Boyles Right hand of fellowship, Thursday, April 8, 1971
A Fresh Look for an Old Memory
Today’s post was written to the word prompt “Fresh” as part of the Five Minute Friday community of writers. Let me invite you to read the inspirational writing of other writers on the same topic at http://www.fiveminutefriday.com
I was blessed with a mother-in-law extraordinaire. Shirley loved me fiercely, prayed for me often (even before I met her son), and lived an exemplary life as a devoted follower of Christ. She gave me, her “daughter-in-love,” as she called me, a few of her earthly belongings which serve to remind me of her love. Over the years she’d hand us a bag or a box full of surprises as we headed out the door after a little visit. One item bestowed upon me was a blouse she enjoyed wearing–a denim blouse with colorful hot air balloons embroidered on the front of it.
One day, our eldest granddaughter Violet was using her gift of organization by tidying and reorganizing my perpetually messy craft room.
As Violet carefully sorted fabrics into color families and folded them into neat little stacks, she came across that colorful blouse of her great-grandma’s and asked me what I was going to do with it. I told her its story and that I was thinking I might reuse the fabric to make a book bag or something someday. Violet remembered her great-grandma wearing it. Her eyes lit up with an idea!
“Can you make a jacket for me?”
I hesitated a tiny bit because refashioning clothing was outside of my realm of sewing skills, but told her I would try. With all the faith in the world that grandma could do it, she folded the blouse and put it on my project pile (on top of the pile, of course, with a sticky note that indicated it would be my NEXT project).
After more than a few searches on Pinterest for some inspiration and ideas on “upcycling” and “remaking” clothing, a design idea began to form. Violet really wanted a jacket, but there wasn’t enough fabric to make the sleeves, so I decided I’d create a little vest with an inset of pretty lace on the back. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find lace that I liked in my stash or at the fabric store, so checked the local resale shop. I was about to walk out of the store when I spied a lacy sleeve peeking out of an over-crowded clothing rack. There it was! A beautiful lace blouse made entirely of the kind of lace I had in mind AND it had long sleeves that I thought I could use to create the jacket Violet desired.
I thanked the Lord for helping me find the needle in a haystack and hurried home to start my special sewing project. Here it is!
A fresh look for an old garment, made with love and a prayer that Violet will follow in the faithful footsteps of her God-loving great-grandmother.